Band of the Day

2012.07.08

The Two Man Gentlemen Band

Good ol' fashioned vaudevillian swing music from a charismatic duo
Oh, William Howard Taft got himself stuck in a bath. It took the secret service and the police to pry him out with a tub of grease.
lyrics from William Howard Taft

The Two Man Gentlemen Band is the swing/folk duo Andy Bean (banjo, tenor guitar, vocals) and Fuller Condon (string bass, vocals). The pair began busking full-time in New York City’s Central Park performing a variety of classic American music styles, ranging from jazz, folk, and even vaudeville. The band soon developed a reputation for fun shows and witty music, including songs about chocolate milk, marijuana, and history. Bean and Condon are known to perform in character, dressing in suits and handing out free kazoos to their audience members. They’ve had several releases beginning with 2005’s self-titled album, a live album Live in New York in 2010, and the latest Two at a Time, released in March 2012. Two at a Time, the band’s 7th full-length, was made with old-fashioned techniques using 1940s and 50s equipment, and recorded entirely without digital technology.

I can honestly say, until listening to The Two Man Gentlemen Band's song “William Howard Taft,” I never thought I'd genuinely enjoy a song about America's 27th President. On paper, it sounds like it should be one of those eye roll-inducing songs that you're forced to listen to in a history class, or maybe in an episode of “Schoolhouse Rock!” But the song, from their 2008 album Heavy Petting, is a foot-stomping, kazoo-laden ditty that's nothing short of a swingin' good time. Before they became gentlemen, Andy Bean (tenor guitar, vocals) and Fuller Condon (string bass, vocals) were students at Columbia University. Inspired by vaudevillian swing, vintage jazz, and tin-pan alley music, the duo started performing as buskers around New York City's finest parks and subways with nothing but a couple of antique stringed instruments, kazoos, and an arsenal of entertaining songs. Now the duo plays hundreds of shows per year, even opening for the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, and are known for their witty stage banter and for encouraging audience participation. Since their 2005 self-titled debut album, The Two Man Gentlemen Band have released an album nearly every single year—most recently, 2012's Two At A Time. There aren't any songs about portly, mustachioed presidents on this album, but it's just as entertaining as their previous releases. Opening track “Pork Chops” is about kissing a girl whose lips still taste like the delicious pork-filled dinner she just ate: “Ain't no foolin'/when she starts drooling/tastes like drips of liquid hog lips.” The lyrics are purposefully ridiculous, but Bean and Condon deliver them with such charisma that you just have to let yourself enjoy and go along with it. “Panama City Beach” shows off Condon's rapid-fire pounding of the fingerboard on his upright bass, showing that he can keep up the rhythm without the aid of a drummer. While many of their songs sound like they could've been recorded in the early 1930s, the lyrical content “Prescription Drugs” speaks to modern times with lines like, “Oh my little brother's hyper/and my sister's got a blotchy face/ooh I'm mixing Ritalin and name-brand Accutane/We're having a party, do you wanna come?” With these type of irreverent lyrics, as well as their fantasticalIy entertaining live videos, even the most pretentious listener will be hard-pressed not to crack a smile and be wooed by the charms of The Two Man Gentlemen Band.